Lucian Freud - Big Sue - Bowery - Bella Freud - Esther Freud - Clement Freud
a huge pleasure to go to the Tate Britain
for “Lucian Freud” and to follow the exhibition
with the Museum’s tape recorder attachment
in my ears. And to hear the seductive
charming voice of the MAN HIMSELF talking
to me alone – almost as if he was accompanying
me around the exhibition. I loved
it! Freud is the greatest British
painter alive today. In fact, in
the world’s best selling art book of all
time, Sir Ernest Gombrich, author of The
Story of Art, put Lucian Freud among
the artists who will stand the test of
time. And this largest retrospective
is to celebrate his 80 years, more than
60 years in painting, from his first picture
Box of Apples at age 16, which
he has updated for his exhibition.
Paintings done in Wales, in his Paddington
studio, then Holland Park and Kensington
total more that 150 works of paintings,
drawings, and etchings that began before
the Second World War. He is considered
to be the most powerful figurative painter
in Britain. From the newspaper:
“Oblivious to the shifting fashions around
him and indifferent to each latest ‘ism’
to nudge its way on the scene, he has
kept his eyes focused on flesh and blood.
His sharp, spiky, watchful and disconcertingly
penetrating gaze has monitored and exposed
every nuance if the human form, from pale
skin stretched taut across a pelvis’s
gaunt jut, to the over spilling adipose
lumps of models who lie in mounds like
gently heaving mountains”. The Times
saw him as an “Heir to Titan…the first
true master on sensuality of flesh…the
defiant honesty of Rembrandt, Corbet’s
conquest of shame, Renior’s adoration
of human body and his youth today.”
A decade ago he had a small-scale
exhibition at Tate Liverpool and another
at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and now
this one, which has been selected by the
critic William Feaver. He still
paints in the morning as well as in the
night. His first priority is PAINTING
and he says: “I don’t know how much time
I have left, and I am full of aches and
pains, so I want to paint as much as possible.
I’d like, ideally, to die in the studio,
with my brush in hand. And I never
see anyone, or go anywhere.” And
then he goes on “I feel exposed, and I
am surprised that the French call it ‘exposition’.
I’m not a very bad tempered person, but
I do feel more jumpy than usual.
I’d like to think I could rise above it,
but the very fact that I’m thinking about
it all is probably significant.”
He continues, “The ones I think are the
most courageous and truth-telling, they
come increasingly from early on.
You have to know what the truth is before
you can tell it.” He also said,
“I never pose anyone, they move around
and I say: ‘Will you relax a bit more?’
In this instance the model slept very
easily, but no position is that comfortable.”
I don’t find his paintings
cold but rather I find them calm.
When you hear his voice it is a very calm,
charming voice and he says, “Quite a lot
of different expressions – it is not one
look. I always want to try and do
something that gives out different feelings.”
The “truth-telling” of his paintings.
“All this promotional stuff about what
a great artist I am. The public
can make up their own minds about that,
when they see the exhibition. The
work should speak for itself”. He
paints the scene outside his windows –
the gardens, other buildings, debris,
etc. Paintings of his naked children,
his lovers, two wives and friends also
his mother to which he was very close.
He used to keep an eye on her, visit her
each day and paint her. He specialises
in painting the human figure, and there
is a confrontation with each of his models.
Like Pablo Picasso’s portrayal of wives
and mistresses there are more paintings
of women in the exhibition, some even
grotesque and cruel, the human condition,
animal and spiritual but they are all
beautiful. Last year in Berlin he
offered £100,000 to bring back Bacon for
his exhibition at the Tate. His portrait
of Bacon is the size of a post-card, (several
of his works are smaller than you think)
and was stolen whilst on exhibition in
Berlin, his birthplace. It was stolen
in 1988 while on loan for an exhibition
at the city’s Neue National Gallery.
This portrait marked the friendship between
the two artists; they became friends in
the 40’s and Freud painted his portrait
in 1951, soon after Bacon had painted
him. The portrait was bought by
Tate in 1952. It is one of the very
few portraits of Bacon. Lucian made
a personal plea: “Would the person who
holds the painting kindly consider allowing
me to show it in my exhibition at the
Tate next June?” The campaign was
possible thanks to the anonymous private
donor of £100,000 and to the Tate. So,
2,500 posters were distributed throughout
Berlin. The poster with the reproduction
of the portrait with at big ‘WANTED’ on
the top said, “For information that could
lead to the recovery of this small picture,
a reward of up to 300,000 Deutschmarks
is offered. Please submit information,
which can be handled in confidence, to
My friend Carlos Freire
( www.verinhaottoni.com/carlosfreire ), the
photographer, has a beautiful exhibition
of Francis Bacon and his famous studio.
Tom Phillips writes, “His hallucinatory
images of faces and figures seemed to
have been painted pore by pore and thread
by thread. Pictures of lovers and
artist friends, specimens under his searing
gaze, could already be seen in the Tate
Gallery.” The woman that has been
interviewed and photographed all over
the newspapers is Big Sue, the biggest
muse in British art. She has been
sitting for “The Master”, she is now 45
years old; her large body mass becomes
splendidly monumental in naked sleep.
This year her image had been on Sam Taylor
Wood’s Haywards exhibition and now at
Tate Britain. Big Sue’s biography
of Bowery –another famous man in Freud’s
paintings, a gay transvestite famous in
Soho who died of AIDS – has turned into
a Hollywood film. And her character
is also in the West End Theatre, in the
production of ‘Taboo’, the autobiography
of Boy George. (the other day I
saw photos of Boy George minus the make-up
and his famous trademark hat, he was bald
and looked just like any other man in
the street!!) Big Sue is manager
of Charing Cross job Centre in the middle
of Soho. She is very famous and
appeared in Will Young’s video (winner
if Pop Idol TV show) in the song The Doors
“Light My Fire”. In the video along with
Boy George she plays a prostitute.
She says, “I have always been drawn to
sleaze. I like people who are charismatic
and arrogant. People who make me nervous.
I like the freedom of not knowing what’s
going to happen next.” She also
thinks that Freud chose her because of
her ordinariness and when she was posing
for him she tried to get into a position
that she could fall asleep without him
noticing, there are two painting of her
in the exhibition and you can see that
she is asleep. She says, “ They
are not the most flattering – but I like
them. So many people will look at
the pictures in hundreds of years and
I don’t have any children, so this is
my way of carrying on. Lucian is fascinating.
We would talk about everything.
He knows so much and has been alive so
long. I first met Lucian in a nightclub
and his main comment was that my lipstick
colour didn’t suit the colour of my face.
He’s so sensitive to colour. He
took me to lunch and old me lots of jokes.
Then about a year later he said to Leigh
(Bowery), ‘Bring her to the studio – I’ll
use her.’” Freud says, “I paint
people not because of what they are like,
not exactly in spite of what they are
like, but how they happen to be.”
While posing for “The Master”, he bought
her a sofa for the sitting; he made Sue
Tilley, “Big Sue” immortal.
The other people that caught
my eye in the exhibition are the Duke
and Duchess of Devonshire’s portrait.
They also own 12 works by Freud.
And they are personal friends of his.
The Duchess first sat for him when she
was 34 and she said, “He painted me as
I am now, 82. Extraordinary.”
She is the youngest of the famous Mitford
sisters; I am fascinated by their story.
They were all beauties. The Duke’s
last purchase from Freud was Large
Interior W9 bought in 1974 for £100,000.
Now the painting is valued at more than
£2 million. They used to own Small
Fern, 1967 but it was given to Prince
Charles on his 50th birthday.
Later the Prince suggested that he and
Freud swap paintings, but Freud declined
the offer!! It is an intriguing
presence in life as well as art.
painted Francis Bacon and Frank Auebach,
72, and he has painted David Hockney who
is in his 60’s. He hates to be called
a portrait painter. As regards the
portrait of the Queen that is hanging
in the new open gallery in Buckingham
Palace (done to celebrate her golden Jubilee),
it is a dramatic painting that most people
don’t understand. I, however, found
it very profound and realistic with her
crown and her face showing responsibility
and the many cares if Monarchy – she has
always put duty first. Another sitter
that got my attention is the late Baron
Thyssem. He owned the greatest art
collection in private hands. He
had two portraits by Freud the first one
in July 1981. Freud said of Baron,
“I got fond of him, his angular, funny
behaviour.” The second time one
goes much deeper. But Carmen “Tita”
Carvera, the fifth Baroness, didn’t like
the picture and she said, “There’s a rat
in those rags.” I looked and looked
and there is one! You can always see something
once someone points it out. Then
you can’t stop seeing it. Man
in a Chair, 1983-1985 was painted
over two years, a penetrating portrait
of the Baron sitting in a velvet chair
next to some rags, is jacket buttoned
up, flexed like clawed feet.
It was terribly chic of
Lucian not to come to the opening night
of his exhibition at the Tate Britain.
The cocktail party was a huge success
– a hot ticket party. John Malkovich
said, “I’d like to come back and see the
show when nobody is here.” Jerry
Hall, who sat for Freud during her last
pregnancy, was there. She said,
“It was the last month of my pregnancy
and I was getting fatter all the time.
Sitting for Lucian was an experience.
It was really interesting. We talked much
about art. He is my favourite painter
– and I bought the picture.” Jerry
Hall was accompanied by her boyfriend,
banker Tim Attias. Just before the
exhibition came to a close Freud finished
his portrait of model, Kate Moss.
Like Jerry Hall, she also posed for him
during her pregnancy.
– the designer Bella and the novelist
Esther – have been portrayed by their
father many times. They were also
at the party. Baby on a Green
Sofa, was bought by the Duchess of
Devonshire. But even before Bella
was born and was still a ‘bump’ in her
mothers stomach, her father painted her,
hence Pregnant Girl 1960-61.
Instead of having a photo album as other
people do, the family album consists of
paintings telling the life of their family.
Bella began working for Viviene Westwood.
She calls her father, “Dad”. She
says of “Dad”, “We talk a lot. He
talks. He has an amazing memory
for poetry and he has met people that
I find very interesting, Picasso, Coctesu
and so on. I get many ideas from
him for my work. But it’s also a
kind of standstill in time. No matter
what’s going on in my life, how overwrought
I’ve been about things, I leave it all
at the door to his studio. It doesn’t
work unless you dedicate yourself to it
In normal life there are
so many ways for people to interface or
meddle or interrupt our time, but you
know that with Lucian it’s going to be
quiet and undisturbed because that’s how
he’s arranged it.” She has put two
of her father’s etchings on t-shirts to
be sold at the Tate – the first of Pluto
the second a bathroom scene with the words
“I Miss You”. She did a new film
with John Malkovich Hideous Man.
This is the third film they have done
together – Strap Hanging, 1999,
about a Japanese boy, a pair of inflatable
underpants, and a tube carriage full of
alluring models. Then Lady Behave,
2000, about a finishing school for wayward
young women. They were made to display
Freud’s cloths, as she doesn’t feel happy
with a normal catwalk show. The
film will be shown during the shows in
London, Paris, New York and Milan.
And she says, “We can’t stop there, we’ve
got to go on, after the second film was
finished. And after the third?
Malkovich has already wondered aloud about
making a feature film. Maybe that’s
it, with this one I thought, it’s the
third, maybe it’s the end of an era.
But now I hope it isn’t. This is
not the end.”
Lucian’s girlfriend, Emily
Bearn, the last in his long line of lovers,
is 27 years old, which is younger than
his granddaughters. They call their
relationship not so much May-September
but January-December. He has painted
her. The result of these sittings
is a near life-sized portrait, naked,
and is part of the Tate Britain exhibition
and he also purchased her a new flat nearby,
not bad for a 27-year-old. (As the
saying goes “Better to be an old man’s
darling than a young man’s slave.”)
Emily is a journalist and was working
at the Sunday Telegraph. At a certain
point she became strange and left her
place at the newspaper. One of her
ex-colleagues said, “She started going
very, very, very weird. She said
that she couldn’t talk about it, but she
simply couldn’t be in the office anymore.”
Quoting from ES, “With the names of two
wives and an unquantifiable number of
mistresses notched on his easel, the twinkly-eyed
and whippet-thin Lucian Freud is no slouch
when it comes to seduction. Admitting
to seven children, he is reported to have
sired up to 30 more. His portraits
can take as long as six months to produce:
a long time for a snake-hipped young woman
to be lounging around suggestively in
the buff, full to the gills with bubbly
Lucian Michael Freud was
born on December 8, 1922 in Berlin.
His father, architect Ernest Freud was
the youngest son of six children of Sigmund
Freud. The family first moved from
Vienna to Berlin, then they moved to England
in 1933, when the Nazis took over.
In 1939 he became a British citizen.
Lucian Freud’s first personal exhibition
started in 1944. Lucian has two
brothers Stephen (who sells doorknobs)
and Clement. Sigmund also moved
to London in 1938 to a house in Hampstead
where there is the Freud Museum open to
the public with the famous couch.
John Cleese, a comedian, has been invited
to unveil a second porcelain plaque, marking
the work of Sigmund, replacing the ‘temporary’
metal one that had been in place since
1956 after the permanent one arrived with
a spelling mistake. In this museum
you can see a film with Stephen and Lucian
embracing Sigmund, at which time Lucian
was 15 years old. I must confess
that this family fascinates me and having
the “Father of Psychoanalysis” as a descendant
could be more of a dysfunction, but surprisingly
Sigmund’s children and grandchildren are
amazingly popular – they are everywhere.
Esther in broadcasting, Emma and Matthew
both in public relations and Matthew married
Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth.
Clement Freud caught my
attention last year with his autobiographical
book Freud Ego, a right name for
his grandfather Sigmund. “Well,
I am not bored with talking about him
because I never talk about him much.
I haven’t read anything he’s written.”
he said about his grandfather.
He goes on, “Well, it wasn’t a case of
‘Take that book away! I won’t have
it in my house’, I’ve read a couple of
biographies, BUT I’VE NEVER MET ANYBODY
WHO HAS BEEN CURED BY PSYCHOANALYSIS.
HAVE YOU?” (God, I would love to
tell this to my friends from America and
Brazil that have spent so much money on
psychoanalysis for years.) Coming
from a direct descent of Sigmund Freud
it sounds like a joke. He never
tired analysis and says, “On the contrary
I would run a mile. In any case, I am
extremely happy. I can’t really think
of a situation. I mean, you would
have to have a huge respect for someone,
wouldn’t you? Or a minimum respect
for yourself, to seek help.” Clement
made a lot of money as a nightclub owner,
journalist, and TV personality and also
as a Liberal MP between 1973 and 1987.
Clement and Lucian have an old problem
and haven’t talked to one another since
1955. Clement says of his brother,
“I loved Lucian without liking him and
there really came a point when the love
was too painful and the dislike was sufficient
to say it really would be more sensible
to end the relationship.” And about
the other brother, Stephen, he says, “We
aren't very close. Mind you, I’m
very intent that my children get on well
with each other. I would hate to
have that sort of thing repeated in which
my children didn’t talk to each other.”
He has 5 children (one adopted nephew)
and 14 grandchildren. He married
the actress Jill Raymond who runs two
theatres companies in Suffok. They
have an “open marriage”.
When she was 47 she had
an affair with a friend’s son that was
16 and the boy has written a book about
it called Self Abuse. Clement’s
parents Ernest and Lucie didn’t go to
his church wedding in 1950. He said,
“They were asked to come, but chose, as
atheists, not to attend.” He was
in the States when his father died in
1970. His mother never told him
how or where he was buried, but Lucian
knew. Clement says, “My mother took
an overdose. She was in St. John
Elizabeth Hospital for 4 or 5 months.
She ever opened a conversation after that.
She sat, and if you asked her a question
she gave you a negative answer.
So I don’t know where my father was buried.
After she came out of the hospital, she
just sat in the St, John’s Wood house,
where we lived, and played solitaire.”
Lucian looked after her. He picked
her up everyday and he painted hundreds
of pictures of her. His mother died
at age 93, which was another mystery.
He says, “She disappeared. There
was no funeral, no service.” He
also says, “There is a book, one of many
books about the Freud family, and this
is wholly reported, in which my Aunt Anna
wrote to me saying ‘How sad that Ernst
and Lucie aren’t together anymore’.
And that would be just about the time
that Lucian was convinced. So it
is possible –Lucian thought it was wholly
bogus…I wouldn’t write about it, because
Lucian would sue you. But there was a
special relationship between Lucian and
Now at 77 Clement still
doesn’t think of reconciliation, saying,
“No, it has never occurred to me.
Lucian’s fallen out with Francis Bacon…Virtually
all the people who were close to him.
Forgiveness. I’m not great at forgiving.
If I decide that I don’t like someone,
that is it.” Clement loves table
tennis and was never beaten at it by any
of his children. He stopped playing
with Matthew in case he beat him.
Oh my god, this man hates therapy.
The thing that fascinates
me is the way Lucian Freud charms his
girls before he paints them in excruciating
positions: a bottle of champagne and a
plate of French-Fries that they eat with
their fingers. But when you arrive
at his studio you get champagne too.
One of them said “He’s a great cook and
he actually prepares something lovely
to eat during the break, like lobster.”
I would love to sit for him but my beauty
is to great, although my age is against
me. So I can do nothing, but I live
and I hope that because of his love for
the grotesque perhaps when I reach 75
and am beginning to look grotesque, I
might be given a chance to sit for him
and be hung in a museum forever.
I’ll provide the lunch and champagne and
I don’t require a flat!!!